If you are involved with a married person and reading this, chances are that you have already gone through the initial stage of infatuation and blinding bliss. In this initial stage you have not wanted to think too deeply about the realities you have been creating in your life by pursuing this relationship.
But as things progress and the honeymoon period wears off, you start to have questions. You bring them up to you lover, but most likely come away with answers that leave you only partially or not at all satisfied. Here are some examples of questions that individuals in this situation find themselves asking.
Would they leave their spouse for you?
Do they really love you?
Have they had other affairs?
How do they justify the affair in their mind?
Would they cheat on you also?
Are they really not having sex with their spouse?
The strangeness of the situation cannot help but make you wonder what you really mean to your affair partner. Getting these answers can become more and more important as you become more involved and possibly obsessed with your lover. There is a point where you come to realize that you might not be as central to them as they are to you.
Rona Subotnik illuminates a list of paradoxical realities that you may find yourself living with as the other person. Here is my version of her findings:
Treasured, but used
Being in love gives you the feeling that you are unique, precious and treasured, but perhaps you cannot help but wonder…if it wasn’t for the sex, would they still want to be with me.? If you didn’t make it so easy and perfect when they are with you, by spending lots of money, by not complaining and making sure you look absolutely gorgeous, by having the house spotless, what would happen? If you were just your ordinary every day self, the way the spouse is, would they still treasure you? If you weren’t providing an escape from another relationship, would they still want you?
Intimate, but isolated
There can be a wonderful, newfound emotional intimacy with your affair partner that you may not have had for a very long time, if ever. However, as time goes by they become one of the few people, or only person, even, that you can be emotionally intimate with because you are reluctant to share what is going on with with family and friends. These family members and friends can probably sense that you are closed off emotionally, and can become confused and discouraged about your relationship to them. You might sense this, yet are afraid it would cause more damage to the relationship if they knew. Your sense of intimacy with your lover can seem more intense when they become one of the few people, or only person, you can really talk to.
Free, but a prisoner
You may feel freed from the dating game or from aspects of being single that may have been difficult or painful, yet you are tied to your affair partner’s schedule. You may find yourself forgoing activities that you used to enjoy that might make you unavailable to your affair partner should they suddenly have time to see you. You may become aware that your world has narrowed greatly.
Safe, yet in danger
Being in love creates a sense of emotional safety, yet the foundation for this safety can feel, at it’s core, shaky. You can’t help but know that they could decide at any time to stop the affair and try to work on their marriage, or that their spouse or someone else can find out and everything could blow up. You know you are participating in something that is potentially damaging to many people and that there could be repercussions for yourself. You may find yourself trying to maintain the sense of safety by trying not to think about these realities.
Self-righteous, yet guilty
You tell yourself you deserve to be happy, that you are making them happy. You may even tell yourself you are helping them to be a better spouse by the love and comfort you provide. You may tell yourself their marriage is already over anyway, or that it’s not your responsibility, but theirs, since they are the one cheating. However, deep down, you cannot help but know you have made a choice to participate in something that can result in devastation for any number of people.
Powerful, yet powerless
You may feel very powerful in your ability to attract someone who is married, powerful enough to cause them to betray their spouse and family. Yet as time goes on, it might become apparent to you that you frequently feel powerless. You may eventually be giving ultimatums, only to be put off or given false promises. You may find yourself stood up when various situations arise with their family that prevent them from keeping dates. Sitting alone on Saturday night or New Year’s Eve, you feel you have no power at all.
Feeling very good/very bad about yourself
Everyone’s self esteem soars when they experience attracting someone who is attractive to them. However, at the same time you know you are treating yourself as if you do not deserve someone who could be there for you 100%.
Reading the above may bring up strong feelings that you haven’t been aware of before. Participating in an affair necessitates entering an altered state of consciousness where only part of reality is processed, the part that has to do with pleasure. It’s like being in a trance, complete with it’s own logic (i.e., if it feels so good, how can it be wrong?). When the full reality begins to hit home, it can be a painful and frightening time. Deep issues can surface, issues that, in the end, have to do with your relationship to yourself more than anyone else. If talking to your lover is making it worse, it is important to break your isolation by finding someone who you can trust to talk to. Therapy can be very helpful at this point.